Televisionaries! is a new weekly column in which we review television programmes. It is partially named in honour of the second tier cartoon series Visionaries. This week we look at the work of: Some soldiers, some racing drivers and some sitcom writers.
“We kill about thirty to forty of their guys for every one of ours,” said a squaddie at one point during Our War, which may be the greatest account of war since Leo Tolstoy sat down at his desk and got out a really massive stack of blank paper. It’s not something hear about much in the so-called media – the fact that, for all the stalemate in AfPak, on a purely numerical basis whitey’s still kicking the djellaba off of Johnny Taliban. But then, that’s Our War all over – filmed almost entirely on POV soldier helmet cameras, it gives more insight into what on earth it actually means to engage the enemy than ten years’ worth of neatly edited Newsnight packages. Conclusions? One: why did none of these Newsnight bozos ever just explain the fact that this war is completely unwinnable? Two: achieving manhood is more than just the rings on the tree. Watch the cool professionalism of these nineteen year olds, and you start to wonder whether killing a man means his soul is added to yours.
MINGER THE MERCILESS
Every day, 12pm and 1pm
God, at the rate Dave are producing episodes of this high-budget prankster motoring show, it's no wonder they can't afford any modern cars. I can't help but think that if they tried to produce just one a week, rather than over ten, then they might not have to rely on such shabby old content. Why would anyone actually want to watch high-concept programming about the Ford S-Max, the Car Of The Year 2007? It seems a bit like watching a repeat of Match of the Day or something. Come to think of it, maybe it's endemic, because Dave's sitcoms always seem a bit old fashioned as well – take, for instance, their homosexual version of Friends, in which Neil Morrissey and Martin Clunes sit around drinking on a sofa all day, desperately trying to dissipate the fraught sexual tension created between them by their ludicrous tranny wigs.
Canadian Grand Prix: Qualifying
Having watched Senna, it seemed like I might return to the Grand Prix fixation I abandoned when my boyhood idol forgot to turn left for the last time at Imola. But what a sag the new cast are. These men are all just powerful jawlines with the personal charisma of bottled water. It’s like when they rebooted 90210, and you spent ages waiting for Jason Priestley to waft into shot, but he never did. Where’s the cruel, capricious Frenchman with the big nose? Is he dead too? And Luke Perry? I asked someone what the best bit of F1 was these days, they said: “When Lewis Hamilton jumps out of his car and is immediately given a Tag Heuer watch to wear at the press conference by his personal sponsorship co-ordinator.” Sport of kings.
In With The Flynns
People always say things like: “My Famlily gets massive ratings but you never meet anyone who actually watches it, do you?” Well in point of fact my parents loved My Family. This might be because my dad is an irascible dentist, my mother is Zoe Wanamaker, and I am a precocious ten-year-old, so we found something compelling about its cardboard storylines. That said, with My Family scheduled for the axe, I don’t think we'll be tuning into its replacement, In With The Flynns. For a start, they’ve made them northern and vaguely working class, and we are neither. If the cast's short 'a's and constant references to something called "summat" aren't confusing enough, there's also the distracting tap-tap-tap of a thousand scriptwriting monkeys to contend with. Like My Family, In With The Flynns is pioneering the American model of having massive ‘teams’ of writers, rather than the pairs that form the common unit in UK writing. And never has that process been so transparent – each wooden line plopping off the assembly, into the wooden mouth of a cipher, with BBC script editors' red biro up the margins still visible: “Can we make this more northern-specific? Sorry, I’ve got Regional Diversity Compliance on my back.” “Not sure the over-40s will get this one, so can we substitute Jay-Z for an MC Hammer reference?” Go team!
The Fairy Jobmother
Whenever TV is making this sort of scoff-at-povvos-vision, they always manage to find one person who doesn’t know who the Prime Minister is. I suspect they have a database, compiled from a This Morning A, B, or C phone-in, of all the people who voted “C – David Campervan”. So it proves with episode one, season two, of The Fairy Jobmother, the sort of programme designed to convince you that there are certain people it’s worth paying lifelong dole to simply to keep out of the workforce. Despite spending their time doing "confidence building exercises" like town-crying in downtown Liverpool, and being lectured on how to become employable by a plump woman in an ill-fitting cravat, everyone manages to get jobs in the end, which is more moving than it sounds. They may not know who David Cameron is, but the ghost of Norman Tebbit walks among them.